Sunday 26 May 2024

Memories of My Father - Part 6


The habit of reading books was instilled in us from a young age, almost unknowingly. There was no specific encouragement or pressure for this. As far back as my memory can take me, I see that we grew up surrounded by books. This was because my father sold books in his shop. However, these weren’t the intellectual or creative books we now include in our collections. My father sold primary and secondary school textbooks.

At that time, in independent Bangladesh, one needed a license from the Textbook Authority to sell government-issued books. Obtaining that license required a lot of effort. I don't know how my father managed to get it, but until 1980, he was the only licensed textbook seller in Banshkhali. He used to go to Dhaka to get books from the Textbook Authority. Other booksellers in Banshkhali would come to our shop to get their supplies from him. As a result, our shop was always filled with a large number of books. We eagerly opened the crates of books. Even before I learned to read, I would flip through the pages to look at the pictures. Back then, apart from the cover, there were no coloured pictures in the books. Nowadays, children have the opportunity to handle beautifully colourful and shiny books from a much younger age.

Having books for various subjects from different classes at our fingertips meant we had the opportunity to read whatever we liked, and we made the most of it. We often saw our father extremely busy. He spent at least four to five days a week traveling here and there. On the two or three days he was at home, he would hand me a book from any class during his afternoon nap and ask me to read it aloud. I can’t say I was a very obedient child. I would wait for him to fall asleep so I could escape. Within two or three pages, he would be asleep. At that time, I thought it was so easy to fool him. It was much later that I realized parents often pretend to be fooled for the sake of their children.

Back then, from classes six to nine, alongside the Bangla textbooks, there was another book for rapid reading. These books had many beautiful stories. I had read all the stories from each class while reading to my father. When I grew up and tried to understand him, I observed that more than his desire to listen to stories, he wanted to cultivate a reading habit in us.

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